Two years before Ferdinand Brütt left Düsseldorf for Kronberg im Taunus in 1898, he was commissioned by the Hoesch family of industrialists in Düren to paint a family portrait in the form of a salon painting. The painting under discussion here is a lively study for that work, Familenfest in Düren1 (Family Party in Düren), whose whereabouts, like those of a different, landscape-format study2 for it, are unknown. Our painting, which can be dated 1896, was presumably painted at a family party as a study for the planned family portrait, which was painted in the studio. In 1891 Walter Hoesch (1851-1916) had become the proprietor of the Hoesch papermill in Kreuzau, founded by his father and uncle in 1858. Hoesch lived in a mansion in Düren, which according to Alexander Bastek, author of the Ferdinand Brütt catalogue raisonné, is probably where our salon scene was painted.3 What makes this study so unusual is that Brütt captures the genteel gathering in an extremely narrow portrait format. On the left is a gentleman and on his arm a lady, whose gown is rendered by just a few vigorous brushstrokes. Behind the second gentleman shown kissing her hand in greeting stands another guest who has raised his glass in a toast. The flute held aloft serves to direct our gaze to the background scenery, which here is no more than sketched in. What can be made out is a splendid cornice, probably a mantelpiece, on which stands a candelabra and a sculpture and behind them a large painting. In his discussion of the family portrait itself, Bastek notes the lady seated in the armchair in the right foreground, whom he identifies as the hostess, while the man leaning into the work from the right edge is probably Walter Hoesch.4 Both figures feature in our study, too: in the figure seated in the yellow armchair in the foreground and in the gentleman on the right edge of the work. The sketchiness of the painting, however, makes it impossible to identify either with any certainty. While these depictions of the Hoesch family entertaining guests were intended to be private family portraits, a wider audience might equally well view them as anonymous salon scenes. Thus we know that in 1897, the principal work was presented to the public at large both at the Glaspalast in Munich and at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg.
We would like to thank Mr. Alexander Bastek for kindly sharing his expertise. The study is listed in the catalogue raisonné as number 1896.4b.
Ferdiand Brütt, Familienfest in Düren (also known as: Gesellschaftsabend, Familienfeier Hoesch, Salonszene or Porträtbild), 1896, oil on canvas, dimensions unknown, whereabouts unknown, WVZ No. 1896.4.↩
Ferdiand Brütt, Studie zu dem Gemälde Familienfest in Düren, ca. 1896, oil on canvas, dimensions unknown, whereabouts unknown, WVZ No. 1896.4a.↩
Alexander Bastek, Ferdinand Brütt und das städtisch-bürgerliche Genre um 1900, Weimar 2007, p. 115.↩
Ibid., pp. 116 f.↩